Schloss Biebrich Sekt

oenophilogical_munichaugustinerkellerLast fall l had the chance to get a quick trip in to Germany and Switzerland.  It had to be quick due to necessary commitments, but it was a wonderful trip.

The first leg we spent in Munich.  We could have gone gallivanting about Germany because there is so much to see and do, but we decided to focus on beautiful München.  Why?  Well, in part because I had lived in Munich as a young man just out of college.  Thus, I wanted to take a good look around and see just how much had changed.  I also wanted to share some of the gems I’d discovered previously with my sweetie.

Staying in a hotel close to (but not right at) the Hauptbahnhof allowed us to utilize the outstanding public transportation system to go everywhere. oenophilogical_munich_nymphenburgerschloss Whether by subway, commuter rail, bus or streetcar, we were able to get to all our destinations.  Our hotel was also within easy striking distance of the Altstadt (old city) area that includes the famous Rathaus with it’s glockenspiel, Marienkirche and the many shops and restaurants lining the Fussgängerzone (pedestrian zone) that links Karlsplatz, Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz.  Yes, we heard and watched the glockenspiel.  We also packed in a visit to the Olympic Center, Olympic Tower and Olympic Village (and my old apartment which was within walking distance).  oenophilogical_munich_englishegarten2We saw the Nymphenburger Schloss with it’s fascinating history and beautiful gardens.  We pondered the amazing collection of art in the Alte Pinakothek museum, part of a group of museums where you could spend days – weeks, even – appreciating the art.  We took a stroll around the Englisher Garten and stopped for lunch at the Chinesischer Turm/Chinese Tower.  In fact, we had plenty of Bavarian food and beer, dropping in at the Augustiner Keller Beer Garden one evening and the Hofbräuhaus another.  And perhaps most enjoyably, we discovered a wonderful pub/restaurant a few blocks from our hotel in a quiet residential neighborhood that served, among other tasty things, Münchner Schnitzel.  This was my favorite dish when I lived in Munich!  I thought it had perhaps been the specialty of the local restaurant (no longer in existence) where I had first discovered it.  Imagine my elation to accidentally rediscover it and be able to share it as well.

With memories of our trip still dancing in my head, it was no surprise that I was drawn toward a German label when considering options for “bubbly” to help celebrate this past holiday season.

oenophilogical_schlossbiebrichsektWinemaker:  Schloss Biebrich
Varietal:  Sekt
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Germany
Price:  $5.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This effervescent wine was a “barely there” straw with a very apple-y nose which held some citrus notes.  It was light-bodied and had good acidity.  Alcohol was at 11%.  On the flavor side it held what the nose portended – sweet apple with a touch of citrus.  I know this is very inexpensive wine, but I was disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong: I will drink it again if someone hands me a glass.  On the other hand, I probably won’t be buying another bottle.

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A Homespun Home-fun Xmas Eve

My sweetheart and I celebrated the holidays quietly at home this year.  Thus, we decided to make it a full-fledged staycation featuring plenty of food and time together.

oenophilogical_xmaseve16Our Xmas Eve celebration, then, began around noon with preparations for an early homestyle dinner – 5:00 ish.   Our kitchen is very small: we are not. Since we were sharing the responsibility for dishes, we had to work out a kitchen schedule.  What a fun challenge for us and a test of our collaborative skills.  I’m happy to say we passed the test!

The dinner was a simple one consisting of crab cakes (from our local Whole Foods seafood section), pearl couscous with mixed bell peppers, and a cucumber/radish salad.  It doesn’t seem that difficult at first blush till you factor in the substitutions we had to make (because we really are follow-the-recipe cooks) plus our “make ahead” work on dishes for Xmas Day dinner.  After much excitement, we finally got the meal on the table around 6:00 … maybe 6:30.  I confess the delay was mostly my fault.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Vermentino from Trader Joe’s under the VINTJS  label.

After dinner, we finished watching the first season of “The Crown.”  This TV show is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen.  If you like the genre, you should see it.  Sumptuous cinematography and solid performances across the board.

Then we put together a little snack tray of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and nuts.  After all, we’d worked hard on the couch helping get Queen Elizabeth through the trials and tribulations of her early reign.  Next we turned out all the lights except the tree and sang our favorite Xmas carols.  And that was that!  Time to hit the hay and rest up for our Xmas Day festivities.

oenophilogical_vintjsvermintino2015Winemaker:  VINTJS
Varietal:  Vermentino
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  For me, this light white had a strong, zingy bouquet of citrus, peach and spice.  On the tongue I tasted orange, grass, and citrus zest.  It had a surprisingly long and pleasant finish as the orange lingered on the palate.  I liked this VINTJS Vermentino.  I was a little surprised that the piquancy of the bouquet didn’t translate fully to the tongue, but perhaps that’s just part of it’s character.

 

Alexander & Fitch Merlot 2013

Here’s an interesting fact: according to Wikipedia -and who doesn’t rely on Wikipedia these days – Merlot is the third most-grown grape varietal globally.  Take that! Miles Raymond (from the movie Sideways).

Winemaker:  Alexander & Fitch
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Dark burgundy in the glass, this A&F Merlot exhibited earth, moss and berries in the bouquet.  Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has what I would call “medium-ish” tannins.  Flavors I detected included earth, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (without the vinegar), cherries, and bitters.  Another solid performer from the inexpensive selections at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Merlot 2014

I picked this Merlot up on a very recent visit to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.  Sometimes …

Other times “whatcha see” is an illusion, and what lies in store can be either a horrible shock or a pleasant surprise.  Personally, I like pleasant surprises, and this wine turned out to be one of those.

Winemaker:  Trader Joe’s
Wine:  Grower’s Reserve Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  California
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  A medium-bodied red with good acidity and medium-plus tannins, this inexpensive Merlot had a definite purplish hue which brought to mind big, juicy, ripe plums.  My eyes, however, deceived me.  What I found in the bouquet was a mix of cedar, earth and barnyard with sweet floral notes.  On the tongue it had an almost chalky texture with cola, blackberry, and tea leaf along with some sweet cherry that blossomed after oxidation.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a sweet wine: alcohol is at 13.2%.  Anyway, I liked it.  It’s cheap, and it’s competent – even interesting – as inexpensive wines go.  House red for me?  It’s a possibility.

Benefactor Cellars Chardonnay

It’s never too early to begin planning ahead for the fall holiday season.  I know some of you have already begun to think about holiday presents!  But before we get to the big November and December holidays, there is one we mustn’t forget – Halloween.

Now, Halloween isn’t really a big foodie holiday – unless you consider candy to be a food group.  On second thought, maybe it IS a food group….  Setting that debate aside, Halloween is definitely a holiday for fun and frolick, parties, costumes and trick-or-treating.  If you’re planning a bash to celebrate All Hallows Eve, you may want to give this Australian Chardonnay consideration.  Although I personally lean toward more red wines in the autumn and winter, you will no doubt have guests who want a glass of white wine.  And this selection from Benefactor Cellars has the perfect label for celebrating Halloween.

Oenophilogical_BenefactorChardonnay2013Winemaker:  Benefactor Cellars
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Aussie Chardonnay was pale yellow in color with a perfumey bouquet.  At 13.2% alcohol, it had good acidity.  Surprisingly, the Benefactor Cellars was light-bodied in the continental style.  On the palate I found a fairly simple, straight-forward flavor profile consisting of citrus with toasty oak notes.  I’d say this is not a selection for the wine connoisseurs, but I think it could work for a casual celebration where the focus was on friends and costumes rather than on the food and drink.

White Hall Cabernet Franc 2014

I like a good Cabernet Franc.  So, when I see one on the shelves of my local store, I tend to gravitate toward it like a little rocket ship sucked in by Gorath.  Gorath, for those who haven’t been watching old science fiction movies, is a super dense “wandering” star featured in an eponymous 1960’s Japanese movie.  In addition to this wine being a varietal very frequently used in blending rather than a single star in the bottle, it was made by a vintner in Virginia.  OMG!  The gravitational pull just doubled.

Winemaker:  White Hall Vineyards
Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Monticello, Virginia
Price:  $14.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This White Hall offering was a pretty ruby in color with scents of red berries, menthol and turpentine in the bouquet.  The body was light and acidity fairly high while tannins were medium.  Alcohol was at 13%.  I got quite a bit of pepper on the palate along with currant, pomegranate and turpentine.  In a perfect world, I would have enjoyed it all the more with less turpentine and more body.  Even so, it was certainly no plonk, especially if you like a racier style of red.

Unsung Hero Shiraz 2014

I noticed that the current Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has “travel” as it’s theme.  While this is not my entry into the fray on that account, I will say that the South African wine country is one of those bucket list places I would love to experience for myself.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity.  And, right now, it doesn’t seem to be in my near future.  So, I’ll just have to content myself with sampling the selections I can find in my area and imagine what it will be like some day when I get the chance to check that trip off my bucket list.  Sigh!

Winemaker:  Unsung Hero
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Western Cape, South Africa
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Pretty as you please in the glass, the color reminded me of a velvet couch in an old Victorian house.  But it didn’t smell like an old Victorian house, instead the bouquet held scents of tangy berries, meat, and hints of mushroom.  It was light-bodied with bright acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol clocks in at 13.5%.  On the palate I found it to be rather zingy (if I may use that word) with dark berries, rubber, and cola coming to a close on a tart note.  You should let it breathe some as the flavors definitely open up after a bit.